By: Forest Kenney
Every Christmas Canadians tune in en masse to witness their contingent go for Gold at the World Junior Hockey Championships and every Christmas they become familiar with new names and new faces.
Beginning on Boxing Day every year Canadians become enthralled with a new team, one that is drastically revamped from the year before.
Over the next few weeks twenty-two of Canada’s brightest young stars will attempt to introduce themselves to the households across the nation and around the world. The introductions will be issued first-hand by the players themselves, as they figure out their specific roles on the Team Canada roster. Someone will become the team’s leader. Someone else the team’s quarterback. Someone else the team’s burst of speed.
Last year in Halifax the 2003 Team Canada was very quick in rounding out its identity. Scottie Upshall was the team’s heart. Jordin Tootoo was the team’s grit. Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau were just some of the team’s finesse. Ian White was the team’s rifleman. Marc-Andre Fleury was the team’s saviour. Every player gave something different, and every player was recognized for their own diverse talents.
Entering the 2004 tournament Team Canada already has begun to form an identity despite playing in only two exhibition games during selection camp. The team begins in goal with Marc-Andre Fleury, the tournament standout from a year ago and the focal point of some major hockey decisions ever since. As the number one pick in the 2003 NHL entry draft, Fleury instantly gives a face to the 2004 team, and his heroics will be counted on as the tournament progresses. Fleury, however, will not go into battle alone.
Forwards Brent Burns and Jeff Tambellini with their soft hands and savvy scoring-knack will instantly add credibility to Canada’s offense. Derek Meech and Shawn Belle are both swift footed defensemen. Stephen Dixon, Brent Seabrook and Josh Gorges all wear letters on their Major-Junior teams and will bring leadership. Maxime Talbot (2003 QMJHL) Nigel Dawes (2002 Memorial Cup) and Mike Richards (2003 Memorial Cup) bring winning experience. And finally, Sidney Crosby brings more hype and more ability to back it up since any World Junior player since Eric Lindros. These are just some of the names who are poised to become the next breakout celebrities in the annual parade that is the World Junior Hockey Championship.
During the next three weeks these young men will compete to win Canada’s first gold medal since 1997 and along the way many of them will become stars; some for their scoring, some for their hitting, and some for their heart. As their individual stars elevate their complexion as a team will take shape, so ladies and gentleman please welcome, Team Canada 2004.
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